Last week I realized that I still had referral credit from Home Chef, and since they made it so easy to un-pause my account, I decided to take advantage of those funds. Their food is just so good.
As with last time, the majority of the ingredients for each dish were bundled together in a plastic bag. The larger ingredients – the romaine lettuce for the salad and the naan for the pizzas – were left loose.
Dish 1: Baja Fish Tacos with Sriracha slaw and pickled onion
Thursday, May 25, 2017 – The Baja Fish Tacos with Sriracha slaw and pickled onion were great. I loved the lightly pickled onions, and the tilapia didn’t have that horrible bottom feeder taste that I hate (and associate with food poisoning after an unfortunate experience about a decade ago). The onions were pickled in lime juice and a little salt for about 10 minutes. It helped to cut the sharpness of the onion, and it added a little acid to bring out the flavor of the fish. The fish was battered and shallow fried in vegetable oil.
I never had Sriracha slaw before. It was pretty much shredded cabbage with mayo and Sriracha. It was ok, but I’m not completely sold on it since I prefer my slaw to be a little lighter. (I generally cut the mayo with milk, vinegar, salt, and a touch of sugar). On the other hand, the slaw almost served the role of tartar sauce, hence why I’m so torn about it. On its own, it was a bit too heavy for me, but with the dish, it was a nice addition.
Dish 2: Chicken Chopped Salad with creamy avocado dressing, blue cheese, and smoked almonds
Friday, May 26, 2017 – TheChicken Chopped Salad with creamy avocado dressing, blue cheese, and smoked almonds was lovely, but it needed a touch more acid in the avocado dressing. I’m also not entirely convinced that blue cheese and avocado work together. Still, it was good enough that I couldn’t stop thinking about it and ended up having the second portion for breakfast the next morning. If I make this again, I’ll probably leave off the blue cheese or avocado dressing. I will however be making the avocado dressing again. It was lovely.
I also realized that it’s the first time in forever that I cooked chicken in my apartment. Weird.
Dish 3: Neapolitan Pizza Margherita with fresh mozzarella, basil, and balsamic dressed arugula
Saturday, May 27 – My final dish from Home Chef: Neapolitan Pizza Margherita with fresh mozzarella, basil, and balsamic dressed arugula. I had never thought of making pizza on naan bread, but aside from the naan cracking in transit, it worked out quite well. They recommended toasting the naan before assembling the pizza which kept it from getting soggy. I missed the alarm going off, so it spent a little too much time in the oven during this early stage, and thus after the pizza was fully assembled, I had to pull it from the oven before the cheese started to brown to prevent the crust from burning. Still, this was an excellent, quick pizza made with great ingredients. I also loved the arugula salad. The sweet and sour notes of the balsamic contrasted beautifully with the bitter greens.
How many recipes would I make again? 3/3 (I would probably leave the blue cheese off the salad though)
Home Chef is just really good. They combine ingredients that I might not normally combine, but the food is reliably delicious and homey. After trying almost all of the home meal delivery subscriptions available, Home Chef is definitely among the top three.
They also made it extremely easy to pause my subscription and skip weeks. It was just the matter of clicking a button. This was not the case with some of the other services. As such, it was quite easy to start back up my subscription for this one meal.
Overall Rating: A
I’m moving next week, but I’m going to try to bang out a blog post with my final rankings and thoughts about each of the services before I go.
This week I tried out Peach Dish. Their model is a little different than other services. With Peach Dish, you can either check out as a guest or become a subscriber. The same foods are available for guests and subscribers, but subscribers aren’t charged for shipping. The number of dishes and servings that you can choose from are also a little different than the other services. You can choose 2 dishes with 2 servings each (standard package), 1 dish with 4 servings, 3 dishes with 2 servings, 1 dish with 6 servings, and 4 dishes with 2 servings. The standard package is $50, making it one of the more expensive services at $12.50 per plate.
When subscribing, you can choose from four different menus: omnivore, omnivore – no pork, vegetarian, and pescatarian. I went with the pescatarian menu, but both dishes this week were vegetarian.
The box also had a couple of added treats: a perfect little parcel with two single servings of dark chocolate, a food magazine, and two postcards with an adorable crocodile eating a peach. All of the ingredients for each dish were bundled in a colorful mesh bag which can be reused. I’m going to use them as reusable produce bags at the grocery store.
Dish 1: Rainbow Bowl with Brown Rice Noodles & Sriracha Nuts
Dish 2: Whole Wheat Couscous with Cucumber, Walnuts, and Dates
How many recipes would I make again? 1.5/2
The first dish was great. The second dish ok. Compared to the other services, the recipes were a bit hard to read. I spent a good ten minutes trying to figure out where the dates were supposed to go. Most of the other services make the ingredients in the preparation section bold so they’re easier to see. I didn’t realize how helpful this was until I was cooking this recipe.
The pictures were fairly helpful. The picture of the couscous actually helped me determine when the couscous was ready, and the image of all of the ingredients helped to demonstrate how large the ingredients should be cut.
The added bits and pieces were appreciated. I enjoyed reading the magazine, the little bites of chocolate were lovely, and those postcards were just darling. I liked that the ingredients were bundled in a reusable mesh bag; although, they did use a lot of those tiny zip top bags that I can’t recycle or reuse. The insulation for the box, however, was made from #1 plastic, so I can recycle that.
The ingredients were very good quality, and have I mentioned that fabulous salt blend? So good.
The only downside was the price; $12.50 per plate is a bit steep.
Overall rating: B+
Dish 1: Miso-Chili Meatballs
Dish 2: Zucchini Lasagna
Dish 3: Persian Stuffed Peppers
Tuesday, May 16, 2017 – I made my final dish from Purple Carrot, Persian Stuffed Peppers, on Tuesday. The stuffing was basmati rice flavored with cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, and dried sour cherries. It was served on a bed of red lentils. The dish was garnished with parsley and chopped pistachios (unless you mistakenly cooked them into the rice after toasting them… oops). The meal was simple to make, but it had a delightfully complex flavor. I’m not entirely sure that I cooked my lentils properly. I think I either put in too much water or didn’t cook them long enough, so they were a little wet and grainy, but it really didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the dish once they were mixed in with the creamy rice. I liked this dish so much, that I picked up some cardamom so I can make it again soon. I want to try it with brown rice next time.
Purple Carrot Summary
Ease/clarity of recipes: 8/10
How many recipes would I make again? 3/3
Overall, I loved Purple Carrot. The food was amazing, flavorful, and diverse, and I was happy to incorporate some new vegan dishes into my cooking repertoire. It was a little bit more expensive than the other meal services, but all of the meals were so good that I didn’t mind. Like Sun Basket, it really felt like these meals were being created by vegans; they felt like complete meals and not just oversized side dishes, and they were all high in protein.
I’ll happily make any one of these meals again, and even went through some of their past/future menus to get inspiration for future meals.
Overall rating: A
This week I’m getting a box from Peach Dish, but that will probably be my last subscription box review, unless I find another one to try. There are a few that don’t deliver to my area (Gobble, Freshly), so I may be able to try some new ones after I move.
My next subscription box is from Sun Basket. Sun Basket offers specialized meal plans including vegetarian, Paleo, gluten sensitive, and breakfast. At $11.49 per serving ($69 per box), this subscription service is about $10 more expensive than Blue Apron, Home Chef, and Hello Fresh. They also offer a less expensive family option at $9.99 per serving.
Dish 1: Chipotle Chilaquiles with Black Beans
Dish 2: Fattoush Salad with Soft-Cooked Egg and Spiced Chickpeas
Dish 3: Tuscan Vegetable Soup with ciabatta croutons
Sun Basket Summary
Ease/clarity of recipes: 7/10
How many recipes would I make again? 3/3
Overall, the food was great. The vegetarian options were vegetable driven, light, and filling. Aside from reducing the amount of pita in the Fattoush Salad, there’s not a thing I would change in any of these recipes. These were probably the best vegetarian options that I’ve received from any of these subscription boxes; however, there was something inadequate with every single dish in this box. An egg for the first dish was broken, the cucumber in the second dish was rotten, and the parsley was missing for the third dish. Hell, I would have excused the broken egg if everything else had been ok. At least they attempted to send an egg, unlike Martha and Plated. But all together, it just speaks to a lack of care being taken when preparing the boxes, and at this price point, I expect more. I’m going to contact the company, and I’ll update this post when I hear a response.
*Update: I heard back from Sun Basket. They sent a nice email apologizing for the inconvenience and reimbursed me $10. I didn’t ask for a reimbursement, so it was a nice surprise, and since it was a reimbursement and not just store credit, I’m actually going to be able to use the money. I’m going to bump up their score slightly because of their customer service.
Overall rating: B
This week I’m trying out Purple Carrot.
Dish 1: Fisherman’s Cod Stew in fennel-tomato broth, olives, spinach, and tender cod
Dish 2: Vegan Power Bowl with sweet potatoes, kale, onion, spicy chickpeas, and cannellini bean dressing
Dish 3: Curried Chickpea and Spinach Bowl with wilted spinach, chickpeas, cucumber crunch, cilantro, *jasmine rice, and rich curry-flavored sauce
Terra’s Kitchen Summary
Ease/clarity of recipes: 8/10
How many recipes would I make again? 2/3
I was very happy with Terra’s Kitchen. They made customization very easy. For the most part, the meals were delicious, and the quality of the ingredients was superb, even if they had a lengthy vacation in the refrigerator before I had the time to cook them. I was a little confused by the random sprig of something that wasn’t cilantro in the cilantro container, but it wasn’t a big deal.
I was especially excited that I could send the box back to Terra’s Kitchen to be reused. I hope that’s a model that other subscription services start to pick up.
For the most part, everything was prepped in advance, so the time estimations were pretty accurate. It is possible to keep the box to the $62.99 minimum order, but one nice thing is that you can choose to splurge and get a more expensive meal if you want to. You also aren’t limited to just three meals. The shipping cooler can fit up to five meals, so you can customize it according to your needs for a particular week.
Overall rating: A-
Tomorrow, I’m getting a box from Sunbasket. This service was recommended to me a while ago, so I’m quite excited.
This past week, I decided to give Hello Fresh a try. I had heard mixed reviews of Hello Fresh, but I tried to set them aside and review my meals based on their own merits.
First, a word about packaging. The food came in a pretty standard box, but this one had the nutritional and source information for the meals on the outside of the box. This was an effective way of providing thorough nutritional information as well as providing a contents list. I’m also reminded that this is only the second box that provided thorough nutritional information actually in/on the box. The other was Blue Apron.
The insulation for the box is completely recyclable. Unlike the other packages, it was made from honey-comb cardboard, rather than a natural or synthetic fiber batting. The cooling packs were the filled with a biodegradable slurry and are reusable (except that my freezer is now full of freezer packs because every subscription box comes with them and they really hurt when they fall out of the freezer onto your toe). There was nothing in the box that had to be kept ultra cold, but it seemed like the box was a little warmer than the other boxes.
All of the ingredients for each meal were parceled together into their own paperboard boxes which was both convenient and more environmentally friendly than the packaging for Home Chef or Martha which used plastic bags to parcel the ingredients.
Inside the boxes, the sturdier ingredients were left unwrapped, and some of the packaging was reusable or recyclable. For the pita pockets (left), the only things I threw away were the packages for the pine nuts and the harissa, and the Tex-Mex Risotto had about the same. The tortellini dish (right) was a bit heavier on the packaging. There was nothing in that parcel that could be reused or recycled. In comparison to the others subscription boxes, however, this was probably the most environmentally friendly.
When signing up, I could choose from three different boxes: the Classic Box, the Veggie Box, or the Family Box. I could also choose the number of portions (2 or 4). The Classic and Family Boxes also allowed me to choose how many meals I would like delivered; 3-5 for the Classic box and 2-3 for the Family Box. There was no overlap between the Classic Box and the Veggie Box, so by choosing the veggie option, I couldn’t choose any of the meals from the Classic Box or vice versa.
Dish 1: Harissa Sweet Potato Pita Pockets with Cucumber Dill Salad
Wednesday, April 19, 2017: My first Hello Fresh meal was Harissa Sweet Potato Pita Pockets with Cucumber-Dill Salad. This was a lovely, simple meal. It took about 30 minutes to make. The sweet potatoes were nicely roasted in the oven, but I don’t think they were roasted quite long enough. The skin for the sweet potatoes weren’t quite cooked long enough to become tender, so they were a little difficult to bit through. The cucumber-dill salad was gorgeous. I can’t wait to make it again. It reminded me of a cucumber salad that my grandmother used to make with Miracle Whip and vinegar, but this was much lighter. The pine nuts added a creaminess that went well with the cucumbers, and I absolutely love dill with cucumbers.
There was avocado in the pita pockets, but it felt like a bit of an interloper in the meal. The avocado wasn’t really seasoned or dressed with anything to enhance the flavor so it was just bland and slimy. The pita was a bit hard to open, as you can tell by the cracks and missing pieces in the picture, but that’s expected for whole grain pita since it tends to be a little less pliable than white wheat pita. I’m also reminded that this is only the second whole wheat bread that I’ve received from a subscription meal service.
The harissa mayo was great! They sent more than what was needed for the recipe with the understanding that some people would like a little extra punch to their mayo. They also send an extra clove of garlic, presumably for the same reason. I used both cloves.
Overall, this meal was quite lovely, but I would have (and it kills me to say this) left off the avocado. The other downside was that it wasn’t particularly filling. I ended up eating a handful of carrots and radishes a half hour later.
Dish 2: Risotto alla Tex-Mex with Corn, Charred Bell Pepper, and Pepitas
Friday, April 21, 2017: I made Risotto alla Tex-Mex with Corn, Charred Bell Pepper, and Pepitas for lunch. The nice thing about this recipe is that it offers two roasting methods for the peppers and corn: stovetop or oven. I chose the stove because the oven was already occupied. The dish was pretty easy to make, but making the risotto took a lot more time and liquid than outlined in the recipe. The dish itself was only slightly better than mediocre. For a Tex-Mex dish, there really wasn’t a lot of flavor in the dish. The aromatics were jalapeno, garlic, shallot, and cumin, but it just seemed to be lacking nuance and layers. I would have liked a bit of chili powder to complement the jalapeno. For lunch the next day, I ended up boosting the heat with a little hot sauce, but the dish still felt like it was missing something. I think, ultimately, It felt like more of a side dish than an entree.
Dish 3: Pesto Tortelloni Bake with Asparagus and Parmesan
Sunday, April 23, 2017: The Pesto Tortelloni Bake was absolutely lovely. The pesto was flavorful, and the tortelloni were plump and cooked up to a perfect al dente. I was surprised how well the asparagus worked with everything. It was a bit heavy on the carbs and fat, especially when the second dish in the box was risotto, but it was a nice meal that didn’t require too much work. The only issue I had was that this meal felt more like a double portion of a side dish than a complete meal.
Hello Fresh Summary
Ease/clarity of recipes: 8/10
How many recipes would I make again? 2.3/3
Overall, this box was pretty good. I was a little disappointed that there were limited options for customizing the box, so I couldn’t add a fish or lighter option to my veggie or veggie options to a classic box.
I also felt that the vegetarian options were a bit lackluster. The only dish that felt like a full meal was the pita pockets, and for a box called the “Veggie box,” two of the meals weren’t particularly veggie driven. This is a trend I’ve noticed with vegetarian options at a lot of restaurants. Rather than coming up with solid, dynamic vegetarian entrees, a lot of restaurants just throw a bunch of veggies on the plate or do a double-portion of something that would usually be a side dish for meat. I was disappointed that none of these dishes utilized complete vegetarian proteins such as soy or quinoa, instead relying on dairy or combined starchy proteins (corn and rice). My ideal combination would have been the pita pockets, the tortellini or risotto, and some kind of bean and quinoa salad or a chickpea curry. Having two heavy starchy dishes was a misstep.
I didn’t order a box from Hello Fresh for this week, but this week’s meals are a bit more well-rounded. They are offering a seitan bolognese, chickpea curry with sweet potatoes, and Greek salad flatbread. The bolognese has spaghetti and the curry has rice, so the box seems pretty heavy on the carbs, but the inclusion of seitan and beans is a step in the right direction for healthy vegetarian meals.
Overall rating: B+
Tomorrow, I’m getting a box from Terra’s Kitchen.
I was at Walmart today, and I found this:
I was craving cake, and I like pineapple upside down cake, so I decided to give it a try.
The final verdict:
Price: $2.50 per box.
Ease of preparation: Easier than easy. It involved nothing more than opening a packet, adding three tablespoons of water, and stirring.
Time: It took about 3.5 minutes from start to finish. 30 seconds to read the instructions, 30 seconds to add the water, 30 seconds to stir, 1 minute 10 seconds in the microwave.
Flavor: Meh. Boxed vanilla cake with fleeting hints of pineapple, undertones of rubber, imitation vanilla flavoring, and a slight chemical leavener aftertaste. The box claims that it contains no artificial ingredients, and I believe them, but there is a difference between a fresh baked cake made with real chunks of pineapple and one that’s made with a variety of ingredients designed to emulate the flavor and appearance of pineapple. This cake is definitely falls into the realm of the latter.
Texture: Soggy and slightly rubbery.
I’m trying to think of a sadder cupcake than this one. Surely, the absence of cake would be sadder. The cake served at the funeral dinner of a beloved grandparent would be a close second. And then there’s this one. Its flavor wasn’t wholly unpleasant, but it did taste rather artificial. I am curious to see if adding pineapple and orange juice would improve it.
Update: I made another cupcake with orange juice instead of water. It tasted leaps and bounds better, but somehow the orange juice obliterated the flavor of the pineapple and made the whole cake taste sickly sweet.